All signs point to a deal to end the NFL owners’ lockout appears to be in place and approved at the July 21st league meeting. If that is the case, a tentative schedule has been released, shifting dates by about 3 weeks from one of the league’s contingency plans had the lockout ended on July 1st. Here are the new dates, as reported by ESPN:
July 21 — Educate the clubs on the new league rules and allow voluntary training for teams and agents.
July 25 — Sign undrafted rookies, as well as give free agents a chance to re-sign with their teams.
July 28 — League year starts and free agency begins.
Aug. 2 — Rosters must be set at 90 players.
Aug. 3 — Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
Aug. 7 — A four-day match period for teams to match restricted free-agent offer sheets.
Aug 12 — Deadline for rookies to sign contracts (not yet agreed upon).
Aug. 16 — Signing period for restricted free agents ends, as does the signing period for franchise and transition tenders.
Aug. 29 — Deadline for players to report to earned credit for an accrued season toward free agency.
Let’s see how this affects the Bears and all of us as football fans after the jump.
If these dates hold true, it doesn’t mean the Bears will report to camp on July 22nd, as had originally planned in order for them to adequately prepare to play in the Hall of Fame Game on August 7th against the St. Louis Rams. In fact, if this schedule is real, I doubt the Bears and Rams will play in Canton and that lone game will become a casualty of the lockout.
In my humble opinion, that would be a good thing for the Beloved. Players don’t want to play in 4 preseason games much less 5 practice games. The game would expose the Bears to a higher risk for injuries. I won’t shed one tear for the missed game and I doubt any of the Bears players will either. It will be a shame that the missed game will cast a dark shadow on Richard Dent’s enshrinement weekend, where many Bears fans are likely to be in attendance.
Besides missing the 5th preseason game, the tentative schedule will mean a greatly accelerated offseason. Months of activity will be crammed into the matter of days. The news of free agents, trades, signing, cuts will be on hyperdrive. It will put a ton of pressure on the front offices of all 32 teams. The teams with the most diligent and agile front offices stand to be winners while sluggish teams could be left without a chair when the music ends in the rapid-fire free agent game of musical chairs.